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Lose Weight and Gain Muscle at the Same Time?

Here is some advice for those who are MILDLY overweight, and are interested in gaining muscle and losing fat.

Perhaps you don't have much muscle under the fat, and you'd like to be somewhat muscular after the fat has been shed, so you don't end up looking frail.

Burning Calories Means Less Muscle Growth
When your body is losing weight, there's a deficit in calories. You're either increasing your exercise, cutting your calories, or both.

Your body burns up the carbs, but it also burns up the valuable protein which is essential for building muscle. So if you're trying to lose weight and gain muscle at the same time, it's very slow and ineffective. You could end up completely sabotaging your success. To achieve the desired physique in the shortest period of time, your strategy should be divided up into two phases.

Phase 1 - Strength
For at least several months (or longer) focus more on weights and strength training. In this phase, you're not cutting your calories or trying to lose weight, but you're trying to gain muscle mass and that is all. I call this the "strength phase" or "growth phase". Your weights should be set so that your muscles fatigue at about 6-10 repetitions. Don't focus on cardio. 15-20 minutes of cardio per workout should be fine.

overweight lifter

You should be eating well and getting plenty of protein, carbs, and some HEALTHY fats, not saturated fat. For example: Avocados vs. Donuts

Always try to avoid the really unhealthy stuff like fast food or junk food.

Phase 2 - Trim the fat
After months of gaining muscle which is hidden underneath your fat, you'll have become stronger as your muscles have grown from all the lifting. However, you still don't see the 6-pack abs. That's alright though, because they're just hiding behind the fat.

Now, in Phase 2, you're more focused on burning calories than you are with building muscle. You should be increasing your time on the elliptical machine, stairmaster, treadmill, jogging, or biking. In Phase 2, cardio takes the front seat.


Continue to lift weights, but lower the weight so you can do more repetitions than in Phase 1. Still do as many as you possibly can. The weights should be set so that your body can get away with 15-20 repetitions before becoming fatigued.

You should cut your calories as well, and continue to eat only healthy foods.

Trying to build muscle and lose fat at the same time is inefficient. It's much more effective to be focused on each goal at a time. This is why we break the process into 2 phases.

lean body

In fact, this is exactly what professional bodybuilders do. They bulk up in the winter with food and lift heavy weight. But when summer gets close, they trim down the excess fat by increasing their cardio and cutting their calories so people can actually SEE their 6-pack abs...and they can show off their nearly fatless, ripped bodies.

In your case, you may not even be going for a totally ripped body, but at least you'll be strong AND lean - in the shortest period of time.

You're likely to lose a little bit of brute strength after Phase 2, but that's to be expected. This is because you've cut your calories and are losing weight...mostly fat, but a little bit of muscle too.

It's also because you're lifting less weight. The flip side to that coin is that you will have greater muscular endurance, better cardiovascular endurance, and a nicer looking physique.

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